1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Inventory

5.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Joseph R. Weisberger Papers

 Judge, Providence, R.I.

 1932-2001. Bulk, 1956-1997.

 Size: 4 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 1067

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, February 2001

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Joseph R. Weisberger was born in Providence in 1920. He graduated from Cranston High School, and then served as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy during World War II. After the war he graduated from Brown University (1947, class of 1942) and Harvard Law School (1949), and then worked as a Rhode Island attorney in private practice. From 1953 to 1956, he also served as a senator in the Rhode Island General Assembly.

            In 1956, he was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court, and became Presiding Justice in 1972. In 1978, he became an Associate Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, became Acting Chief Justice in 1993, and then served as Chief Justice from 1995 to his retirement in 2001.

            His greatest national impact was in support of judicial immunity to litigation, which was threatened by the 1984 ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Pulliam vs. Allen. Justice Weisberger led the battle to overturn this ruling, enlisting the help of Sen. Strom Thurmond and others to secure passage of a judicial immunity bill by the United States Congress in 1996. Weisberger was also an instructor at the National Judicial College in Nevada from 1966 onward, and thus helped to influence an entire generation of younger judges such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

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Scope and content:

            This collection consists of Chief Justice Weisberger's papers dating from 1956 to the present, including unpublished decisions from his days on the Rhode Island Superior Court, extensive files from his fight to preserve judicial immunity from litigation, papers on his work in training judges across the country, files on the decision to first permit television cameras in the Rhode Island courts, and his work in Constitutional history. The judicial immunity files include frequent correspondence with Rhode Island Senators Claiborne Pell and John Chaffee, as well as other national figures.

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Series 1: Decisions in Rhode Island Superior Court (box 1)

Divorce, 1956-1961

Equity, 1956-1965

Equity, 1966-1971

General, 1956-1961

General, 1962-1965

General, 1966-1967

General, 1968-1972

General, as Presiding Justice, 1973-1975

General, as Presiding Justice, 1976

General, as Presiding Justice, 1977

General, as Presiding Justice, 1978

Series 2. Committee Work

Subseries 1. Judicial Immunity (boxes 1 and 2)

1984. Pulliam v. Allen ruling

1985. Comments by ACLU; Conference of Chief Justices survey results

1985-1987. Articles by Justice Weisberger:

            "Can Judicial Independence Survive Under Pulliam v. Allen?", 1985

            "The Twilight of Judicial Independence: Pulliam v. Allen," 1985

            "Judicial Independence," address to the Massachusetts Judicial Committee, 1987

1985-1987. American Bar Association State-Federal Relations Committee

1986. General.

1987. General.

1987-1989. Appellate Judges Conference Committee

1988, February. U.S. Senate Testimony.

1988, January - June. General.

1988, July - December. General.

1989, January - June. General.

1989, July - December. General.

1989, July. "Litigation Against Judges: 1988 Survey Result."

1989, October - November. U.S. Senate testimony.

1990. General.

1990. Lobbyist packet.

1991. General.

1992. General.

1993-1995. General.

1996-1997. General.

1996. "Report on the Restoration of Judicial Immunity," by Justice Weisberger.

Subseries 2. Media Advisory Committee (televisions in the courtroom) (box 2)

1981-1988. Official rulings and reports, 1981-1988.

1981-1982. Von Bulow trial monitoring.

1981. General.

1982. General.

1983. General.

1984. Hearings.

1984. Testimony.

1984. Final report.

1984-1988. General.

Series 2, subseries 3: Rhode Island Commission on Criminal Justice (box 2)

Correspondence, 1977-1978

Final report, January 1977

List of offenses and sentences, circa 1977

Series 2, subseries 4: Socio-Technical Systems Prison Report. Box 2.

Chapters 1 through 8, "Multi-State Treatment of Special Offenders Project," 1973

            (New England study; chapter 7 deals exclusively with Rhode Island)

Chapter 9, "Disciplinary Procedures..." and "Transfer of Inmates..."

Chapter 11, "Physical Facilities for Special Offender Programs"

Correspondence, etc., 1973

Summary, 1973

Series 2, subseries 5: Miscellaneous. (box 2)

American Bar Association Federal Habeas Corpus Review Committee, 1987-1989

U.S. Constitution - Victims' Rights Amendments. Correspondence and testimony, 1996-1999.

Series 3. Judicial education (conferences, seminars, etc.) (box 3)

Series 3, subseries 1: Appellate Judges Seminars

1986, Toronto

1990, Quebec

1996, Halifax

1997, Naples, Fla.

1997, Newport Beach, Cal.

Series 3, subseries 2: Impact Decisions, U.S. Supreme Court

1997 judicial training program

1998-1999 summaries by Justice Weisberger

1999-2000 summaries by Justice Weisberger

Series 3, subseries 3: Law schools

Harvard Law School evaluation, 1975

Roger Williams University School of Law, "American Inn of Court," 1996

Roger Williams University School of Law feasibility study, 1991

Roger Williams University School of Law judicial education seminar, 1996

University of Maine School of Law evaluation, 1986

University of Virginia judicial process program, 1985-1986

Series 3, subseries 4: National Judicial College







1987 (International Bicentennial Project)


Series 3, subseries 5: Miscellaneous

Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges conference, 1987, Vancouver

Conference of Chief Justices, 1997

Demonstrative Evidence, 1996-1997

English Court Tour, 1975

Germany, Cyprus and Malta speaking tour, 1985

Michigan Judicial Conference, 1988

National Conference on Courts, Law and Genetics, 1997

Pennsylvania Judicial Training Program, 1985, 1987

Series 4. Historical and public (box 4)

Series 4, subseries 1: Constitutional Bicentennial

1986-1987, general

1988-1994, general

"That Summer in Philadelphia" video screenplay and report, 1987

"Rhode Island: First in Freedom, Thirteenth to Ratify the Federal Constitution," by Justice Weisberger, 1987 (with related papers)

Series 4, subseries 2: East Providence Centennial

Dinner, March 1 1962

Invitations and responses, 1962

Parade, May 30 1962

General, 1962

Series 4, subseries 3: Law Day. Programs and speeches.

1959-1963; summary, 1959-1979




1988, 1997

Series 4, subseries 4: Miscellaneous

Brown Learning Community "We the People" program, 1987

Daughters of the American Revolution / Flag Day, 1987-1988

Domestic Violence Seminar, 1997

Domestic Violence Seminar packet, 1997

National Crime Victims Week, 1997

Providence College "Constitutional Aspects of Criminal Law" class, undated

University of Rhode Island "Rhode Island Politics" class with Gov. Sundlun, 1997

Series 5. Miscellaneous (box 4)

Application and withdrawal for settlement counsel position, Civil Appeals Management Program, 1993-1994

Awards and citations, 1946-1995

Awards and citations (in double-oversized storage):

            Commission as Rhode Island Senator, 1953

            "Brotherhood Award" from Riverside American Legion, 1961

            "Outstanding Catholic Layman" award from Newport Knights of Columbus, 1962

            Membership certificate in Institute of Judicial Administration, 1971

            Honorary commission as Tennessee Colonel, 1973

            Citation from Catholic Association of College Alumni, 1978

Biographical sketch, 2001

Florence Murray retirement party, 1996

Newspaper clippings, 1960-1985

Probation guidelines, 1970

Published articles, 1977-1997

Publications - Judge's Journal proofs, 1985-1986

Sample verdict record, circa 1932

Testimonial program, 1977

Unpublished address: "Rise of Barbarism," 1970

Unpublished addresses, 1973-1974

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American Bar Association. Judicial Administration Division.

Chaffee, John H. (1922-1999)

Civil Appeals Management Program

Conduct of court proceedings - Rhode Island

East Providence, R.I. - Centennial celebrations, etc.

Flag Day

Habeas corpus

Harvard Law School

Heflin, Howell (1921- )

Judges - Education

Judges - Rhode Island

Judicial immunity

Law Day

Media Advisory Committee

Multi-State Treatment of Special Offenders Project

National Judicial College

Pell, Claiborne deB.

Prisons - New England

Rhode Island. Commission on Criminal Justice

Rhode Island. Superior Court

Rhode Island. Supreme Court

Roger Williams University School of Law

Socio-Technical Systems Associates, Inc. (Boston, Mass.)

x Television broadcasting of court proceedings (see "Conduct of court proceedings")

Thurmond, J. Strom (1902- )

Unites States Constitution Bicentennial, 1987-1991

University of Maine School of Law

Victims of crimes - Legal status, laws, etc.

Von Bulow, Claus

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